“No woman should ever have to lose her child. And not in the heart-breaking way that Kamini lost hers.”
Malaysia is in a unique position where both the laws of Syariah and the Civil Law are practised concurrently. This has given rise to a conflict in jurisdiction in certain cases. For instance, where a non-Muslim couple is married under the provisions of the Civil Law, confusion arises when one party converts to Islam and converts their children as well. A custody battle often ensues where the Syariah Court can grant custody of the children to their newly converted Muslim parent while the High Court of Malaya can grant custody to the non-Muslim parent. THE AGE OF SMILING SECRETS is a work of fiction that is based on this legal position.
[***The Legend of Nagakanna (an edited version of Chapter 9 in this novel) was first published in an anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writings from the Descendants of Indenture, School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with Commonwealth Writers, 2018]
REVIEWS / COMMENTS:
A riveting tale of tragic destinies that dares to expose the flaws in our concurrent Civil-Syariah Laws. Lives unravel in a worst-case scenario when loopholes in the law, exacerbated by corruption and unscrupulous characters, combine to destroy the very fabric of lives of simple and honest folks.
Datuk Ramli Ibrahim
This saga of much breadth and density is vibrantly poignant with richness of character. As the drama unfolds, one cannot help but notice the subtle launching of the realities of contemporary issues in political Malaysia, albeit beautifully couched in theatrical fashion. A must-read for all those looking for good Asian fiction, but nevertheless grounded in tangible life events.
Professor Bala Shanmugam
‘In [The Age of Smiling Secrets], Karuppan gives voice to the sheer contempt for his station in life which epitomises the utter lack of self-worth that many Tamils will identify with. … Personally, I feel works such as these need to be recognised by people in academia as well as by the general public. As such, from the point of view of literature, there are already many published works that speak of the challenges that the author of the article speaks of. They are rich in information, emotion and, in most cases, unspoken trauma and pain.’
Dr. Swagata Sinha Roy; Paperback Book Club
In the Media:
On Her Own Terms by S. Indra Sathiabalan: The Sun (18 November 2018)
Following Her Dreams by Rynnaas Azlan: Malaysian Business (February 2019)
More on Indentured Labour by Dr. Swagata S. Roy: The Star (5 July 2020)
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